Friday, October 11, 2019

Trump's Nutty Tariffs Are a Full Employment Act for Lobbyists

President Donald Trump 's trade wars have turned lobbying on tariff exemptions into a big business, and as the Trump administration rolled out new tariffs on Chinese imports this fall, K Street has seen more and more companies hiring lobbyists for the first time. More than two dozen mostly small- and mid-sized companies have hired a Washington lobbyist for the first time in recent months, according to an analysis by Politico's David Beavers.

— "There has definitely been continued high interest in all the work around tariffs," Alex Vogel of the Vogel Group said in an interview. Vogel and two other Vogel Group lobbyists, Samir Kapadia and Brian Johnson, recently registered to lobby on tariffs for Soft Surroundings, a St. Louis women's clothing merchandiser, and Raymond Geddes, a Baltimore-based distributor of novelty school supplies. Scott Sandt, a Raymond Geddes spokesperson, said the nearly century-old company hired lobbyists for the first time because "they have a standing in Washington, D.C., more than we do. ... We realized from a company standpoint that we couldn't do nothing."

— With thousands of requests for tariff exemptions coming in, "it unfortunately still takes the intervention of someone like us and a member of Congress calling to get out of the stack and get consideration," according to Winning Strategies Washington's Mike Merola and Chelsey Hickman. The firm has recently registered to lobby on tariffs for Taste Beauty, a beauty products distributor; New Era Cap, the baseball cap manufacturer; and Custom Molded Products, a manufacturer of pool, spa and bath products — all first-timers. While companies can file exemption requests on their own, Kapadia said many clients "want to be introduced to Washington."

— The small- and mid-sized companies hiring lobbyists often are doing so only as a last resort. "I think we have a problem with China, and hopefully, somehow, we get that fixed," said Richard Darrow, the president of ToCAD America, a distributor of specialty photography equipment that recently hired Kasowitz Benson Torres to lobby on its behalf. "But to destroy my company and other companies in the process is, to me, not the right solution."

(From the Politico Influence newsletter)


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